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The gender disparity in Human Resources

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​78% of leaders in HR are women.

This was a finding from our recent report; Routes to the top: HR.

Funnily enough, a 2021 CIPD report reported the same, that ‘women represent 78% of the HR workforce in the UK.’

That means male representation in senior positions within the industry is below 25%.

We conducted the same research but spoke to leaders in Finance and the results were flipped. Only 30% of senior professionals were women, and 70% men.

Even with different representation, there are however, similarities amongst the women in both HR and Finance.


Factors affecting / slowing progression

79% of those that took part in our survey felt that during their career there had been occasions where their progress had been slowed.

The top reason was time off for family reasons, more specifically, maternity leave.

So across two entirely different industries, the main factor impacting women’s progression has been starting/adding to a family.

This is the age old ‘why its men are in top positions’ explanation. We need to change that.


So what can businesses do to support professionals who want to rise through the ranks and build a family?

  1. Give men and women equal access to ‘traditional’ women focused benefits i.e., more support from the business to manage family commitments. This breaks the stigma that hangs over women’s heads.

  2. Balance your salaries. Even with the gender disparity in HR, men are still on average being paid more than women.

  3. Offer career coaching, advisors etc. as an aid to your employees to help them build their paths. Role models and people that inspire and promote progression; for all.

  4. Make adjustments to your workplace to make people want to stay. Build an inclusive culture. We’re not just talking women, we’re also talking minority groups. This isn’t a tick-box task. It’s an ongoing priority. It’s about monitoring and accountability.

  5. Don’t stunt your employees’ careers as soon as the word baby is uttered. Have a discussion with them about their intentions. Talk through the ‘before maternity leave’ period and any adjustments you can make for them. If its applicable, piece together a return-to-work plan. Stay in touch.


How can we increase male representation in HR?

HR is a people industry. The industry boasts "softer" skills (empathy, problem resolution etc.) that for men, seem less appealing because supposedly intuitively, men are drawn to more analytical and strategic positions. They thrive from more competitive roles.

Supposedly women are more successful in the industry because of their ‘natural affinity to relationship building’.

There is a link between how men have learnt growing up (will be dependent on cultural and environmental factors) and therefore how they perceive things like societal norms including work. It doesn’t help that HR has been labelled as a predominantly female industry.

However, HR has already begun adapting/ evolving with the digital age i.e., use of data and AI. More and more employers are looking for individuals with specific data driven skills and analytical mindsets.

Perhaps this will break the stigma for HR and begin a shift to a more gender balanced industry?


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